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Be smart with heat this winter

Extremely cold air mixed with precipitation is something that throws southerners into a tailspin.

The best advice for us all during such conditions is to stay home and stay warm.

But Mississippi’s Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney warns all Mississippians to stay smart while trying to heat homes, particularly with space heaters.

“Space heaters pose a much higher risk of fire, death and injury than central heating, and it cannot be stressed enough that using a stove to heat a home is extremely dangerous,” Chaney said. “Every home should have a working smoke alarm. Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of people dying in home fires in half.”

Chaney recently shared advice from the state’s fire marshal’s office about safely heating your home during cold weather.

• Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

• Supervise children when a fireplace, fire pit or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.

• All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, like paper, bedding or furniture at least three feet away from heating equipment.

• Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

• Never use your oven for heating.

• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms to avoid risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.

• Use only space heaters with an automatic shut off so if they are tipped over, they will shut off.

Should a fire break out in your home, have an emergency evacuation plan, Chaney suggests. Once all are outside the burning home, call 911. And absolutely do not re-enter the home under any circumstances.

Stay warm, but put the safety of you and your family first.